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Filming Discussion Shows Many Interests, Little Common Ground

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, October 02, 2008, at 01:23AM
Criminal Minds Shoot Eric Richardson [Flickr]

TV show "Criminal Minds" shoots at 6th and Spring just before midnight in this file photo from June, 2008.

Discussion on the city's draft film coordination contract lasted nearly an hour and twenty minutes on Wednesday, but the crux of the situation for Downtowners was right in the first public comment.

Sarah Walsh of the Motion Picture Association of America gave some objections that her group has to the proposed terms, in particular pointing at the requirement that permits be issued 24 hours before filming would take place.

"At present, the majority of permits are issued with less than 24 hours, for example 4pm on Wednesday for a 7am call on Thursday," Walsh told the city council's Public Works committee. "While we recognize that the city has made a reduction from 48 hours to 24 hours, this still places an undue burden on the city and production companies."

Residents and business owners might not share the industry's concern.

At issue is a draft Request for Proposals put together by staff for the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), soliciting bidders to handle film permit coordination for the city. A first draft was published in 2007, but instead of being sent out, the document was given back to the CAO to be reworked. A new draft was released this week.

The new draft weakens initially proposed rules on the time in advance that productions must make their requests, conduct community surveys, and distribute filming notification.

After hearing industry objection to even these softer rules, Michelle Davis from the CAO's office pointed out the need for balance. "We heard industry today say that asking industry to do [community surveys] five days in advance is too much, but we have to weigh that against community," Davis told the committee.

Councilman Richard Alarcon questioned whether the new rules would drive away production. "I'm not suggesting that we don't bear in mind the community," Alarcon said, "but what good is it if we create a system that pushes these shoots outside of Los Angeles and erodes the resources that we get from this industry in terms of jobs and financial... because we didn't want to give them two day notice. It might not be worth it."

While the RFP makes explicit that permit enforcement is the responsibility of LAPD and not of the coordinator, the topic was a hot one for discussion on Wednesday. Public Works committee includes three councilmembers, Alarcon, Greg Smith and chair Bill Rosendahl. All three had questions about how enforcement would be done. Even LAPD got its opinion in, with LAPD Lieutenant Ray Garvin telling those gathered that "It's the department's position that the oversight at film locations is grossly inadequate."

In the end, the committee decided to refer the RFP discussion to the Public Safety committee, and to hold a joint meeting with that body. With more time for the community and the industry to read the draft document and prepare comments, Rosendahl noted that the joint meeting might be crowded. "We'll probably have to hold it downstairs," he told the crowd.

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